There's nothing like historic budget cuts to end a newly elected politician's honeymoon – that and a good snow storm.
Gov. John Hickenlooper already had his brush with public bitterness stemming from a blizzard in 2006 when he was mayor of Denver. This time around, he is dealing with bitterness stemming from a proposed $411 million in cuts to education, including a historic $375 million in cuts to K-12 education, and another $36 million from higher education.
Legislative economists project that Colorado will face an additional $40 million shortfall in its General Fund budget for fiscal year 2009-10 due to a continued drop in revenues since their September forecast.
Economists with the Legislative Council project that General Fund revenues in the current fiscal year will come in $240 million below budgeted appropriations. This is even after the $320 million in cuts Gov. Bill Ritter announced in August.
When it comes to the state budget, Colorado is digging a hole.
That's one of the conclusions in a new report, Looking Forward: Colorado's fiscal prospects amid a financial crisis, by the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Children's Campaign and the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute.
Like other states, Colorado faces its second major budget shortfall in less than a decade. But unlike others, we are heading into this deepening economic crisis with one of the smallest budgets in the nation, whether measured by population or the size of the state economy. We already spend less than almost every other state on the public structures and services our future depends on: our schools, colleges, roads and bridges, health care and other assistance for poor families and children.
The most recent quarterly revenue estimates by state economists were released on Dec. 12. While there are considerable differences between the two sets of numbers, both estimates project a drop in state revenues since the beginning of the fiscal year.